Roundtable: Distance Levels

Now that March Madness is fully underway, we'll hear a constant stream of chatter this weekend about the various levels of college basketball — high-major, mid-major and low-major —but how much difference is there, really?

Because we'll see some tall players at smaller schools, very athletic guys as well as numerous sharpshooters.

In your minds, what are the traits that make high-majors what they are, versus those at the mid and lower levels?

Brian Snow: The biggest difference tends to be the athleticism and size that high major programs have versus mid and low majors. There might be one guy on each team who fits that at the mid or low major levels, but most high majors are bigger and more athletic at nearly every position. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but in general that seems to be the biggest difference.

Rob Harrington: Size stands out most, which is why within the recruiting realm you’ll always see coaches take chances on big men. With high-majors scavenging for frontcourt players, that doesn’t leave much left over for small programs.

I think the skill levels tend to be comparable, and there are plenty of great athletes out there, but size represents the true line of demarcation between high-majors and others.

Josh Gershon: As a general rule, every level you drop, there's a big difference in size, length, athleticism, skill and motor. The best low to mid-major coaches find niches and they'll recruit to it, which is how they become better programs than should be expected out of their league.

Ben Howland had success at Northern Arizona, before heading to Pitt, by signing the best shooters possible. Gonzaga is a high major program in a mid-major program but has an International niche. The Mountain West is a very high tier mid-major conference and San Diego State is a high major program, but the Aztecs have found success in transfers and out-evaluating others in the region for athletes.

There are a lot of NCAA tournament teams from low to mid-major conferences that just strung a few wins together in their conference tournament and that's why they're in the Dance, but the best coaches from the lower levels realize they have to find something they specialize in as a program and that's how they find consistent success.

Evan Daniels: This is a loaded, but great, question. And to be clear there are a lot of variables that differentiate a level that a player can play at.

I think the biggest thing that stands out are physical characteristics: Size, length, athleticism, etc. Those are big factors. The truth is there are plenty of mid major players that can play at the high major levels, but their physical features allow them to be more successful at a level below.

I do think it's hard to pigeon hole every case. As there are instances with say big guys, where they may have the size and length, but severely lack the skill. So I do think it varies some, too.

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report

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